On the afternoon of Friday 27 March 2015 a sizeable group of Ipswich Building Preservation Trust supporters gathered to view the work carried out on the conservatory, known as the Orangery, and the stable-block which are the surviving remnants of Holywells House, built and inhabited by the Cobbold brewing and banking family. The Orangery is Listed Grade II.
The Park was originally part of the Manor of Wykes Bishop, held by the Bishops of Norwich from the 13th Century. During the reign of Henry VIII, the Manor was surrendered to the Crown and then granted to Sir John Jermy. The title of Lord of the Manor was acquired by John Cobbold in 1812. During the 18th Century, a succession of brewers worked in the park and used the waters to make beer. The Cobbold family had owned land at Holywells from 1689. They had begun their brewery in Harwich but had problems with the water there and for many years used ships to transport water from Holywells to Harwich, and then to return to Ipswich with beer. Holywells House was built in 1814 on the site of an old farmhouse. Its Victorian gardens were redesigned in the 20th Century in accordance with the ideas of gardeners such as Gertrude Jekyll. The land was eventually given to the Borough and opened to the public as Holywells Park in 1936. The mansion was sadly demolished in 1962.
Ipswich Borough Council was awarded a project planning grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for the investigations that were needed before work began to restore Holywells Park. As a result, Wessex Archaeology have excavated a number of trial trenches to see if there are old surfaces and structures hidden under the ground which can tell us more about the history of the park.
Our group was able to view the improvements to Holywells Park, notably the sympathetic restoration of the long boarded-up Orangery and substantial refurbishment of the Stable Block, including a café and visitor centre. The clock tower now has a clock face on each of its four walls. A new open air performance area has been built between the Orangery and Stable Block for the use of local schools and community groups. Planting and other works are continuing and the surrounding gardens will mature and soften the large paved areas. The official opening of these facilities: Saturday 18 July 2015, but the café has been open since Easter.
Thanks to Ipswich Borough Council's Gail Broom (Senior Conservation Officer) and Nick Wilcox (Holywells Park Manager) for providing a fascinating and informative visit.